Exam results post-COVID: DiU Statement

Doctors in Unite (formerly the Medical Practitioners Union) are extremely concerned that thousands of young people, disproportionately from disadvantaged back grounds, have been awarded A level grades, in many cases two grades lower, than those predicted by their teachers. 

It is grossly unfair that young people from areas already hardest hit by the ravages of COVID 19 should have the fact that the virus has prevented them from taking their exams add a further barrier to their ability to achieve and to their life chances. 

We are appalled that many of the young people who expected to go on to higher education have been let down by an algorithm which takes little account of individual potential, placing more emphasis on the historic performance of the school, handing further advantage to those from more affluent areas.

In particular, as doctors, we are worried that young people who live in working class areas will fail to get the places in medical school which should have been theirs. Diversity within the medical profession is vitally important so that as doctors we can effectively represent the patients that we serve. The algorithm threatens the level of diversity amongst our colleagues of the future and many of today’s doctors would not be practicing if they had been subjected to such a system..

We call on Gavin Williamson to work with the teacher’s unions, immediately scrap the algorithm and to award young people A level grades based on the predictions of their teachers. To fail to do this will rob thousands of young people of the futures they deserve and quite rightly expect.

Doctors in Unite, 17/08/2020

Financial Security must be maintained during contact tracing

Doctors in Unite believe that comprehensive, publicly coordinated and community based, ‘test, trace, isolate and support’ procedures are vital for control of the Covid 19 pandemic as lockdown is eased.

As a means to eliminating Covid-19 from our communities, people must be supported to isolate once they are identified as potentially infectious.

To this end it is imperative that there is no loss of income for those who need to isolate through having been in contact with an index case.

Low paid workers, especially those on precarious contracts or undocumented migrants, who have no recourse to public funds, are at particular risk of destitution if their wages are not fully paid. In many cases if they don’t work, they don’t get paid at all.  Many work in health and social care and without them the services would collapse.

To control the spread of Covid 19 Government must commit to maintaining people’s income so that they are not compelled to work when they should be in isolation. The Government’s faux-Churchillian rhetoric that calls on citizens to do their bit while attempting to live without income or dignity is not acceptable bearing in mind that those on the lowest incomes have virtually no savings at all to fall back on.

The financial burden should not be directly placed on companies as many of them would simply walk away from the obligation, though of course, companies should contribute properly through corporation tax.

Our Demands:

  • The Government must not weaken the furlough scheme — to do so risks mass unemployment and destitution.
  • Government must ensure that people who are asked to isolate through contact with an index case are paid in full irrespective of the terms of their contract of employment.
  • Government must enable local councils to begin immediate test, trace, isolate and support programmes and make sure that these are fully funded. 
  • Corporation tax should be set at a level that ensures that companies contribute to the costs and should be rigorously collected. 
  • In public facing, key worker jobs simply testing negative must not be a reason to be forced back to work. Workers must be repeatedly tested as many will be infectious but not symptomatic and many will be infectious and symptomatic but test negative due to the unreliability of the PCR test. 

References:

  1. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31199-5/fulltext

2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbyoccupationenglandandwales/deathsregistereduptoandincluding20april2020

3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/27/government-unveils-covid-19-test-and-trace-strategy-for-england

4. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-4234518/Savings-inequality-rise-gap-grows-25.html

Doctors in Unite, Statement

An unequal society is an unhealthy society

Life expectancy is falling for the first time in over a century, driven by growing social inequality and a decade of ideological Conservative austerity.

Sir Michael Marmot, the director of University College London’s Health Equity Institute, specifically cited government policy as a driver of worsening health and shorter lives for people in the UK.

“England is faltering,” says Marmot. “From the beginning of the 20th century, England experienced continuous improvements in life expectancy but from 2011 these improvements slowed dramatically, almost grinding to a halt.”

His report, Health Equity In England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, lays out in excoriating detail how the government’s failure to address social injustice has led to a less healthy society.

“When a society is flourishing health tends to flourish. When a society has large social and economic inequalities there are large inequalities in health.”

This is not just about the NHS, says Marmot. It’s about every part of society.

“The health of the population is not just a matter of how well the health service is funded and functions, important as that is: health is closely linked to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and inequities in power, money and resources – the social determinants of health.”

There is apathy from the government, inaction on addressing a social care crisis for the last ten years, and an NHS straining under the weight of a decade of neglect. But there is also a vicious zealotry in their policies that make the lives of working people harder.

Doctors in Unite Chair Dr Jackie Applebee rightly condemns the findings of the report. “Yet again the evidence shows that austerity is bad for your health,” she says. “It is shocking that in one of the richest countries in the world, life expectancy is decreasing. It is an indictment of this government’s policies that it is the poor and vulnerable who are disproportionately affected.”

In the lead up to budget day, health workers across the NHS are coming together to put wellbeing at the centre of the country’s finances. Nothing is worth more than good health.

Doctors in Unite urges all members, all doctors, and anyone who cares about our society becoming less just and less healthy to sign the Health and Wellbeing Budget pledge, organised by medical justice charity Medact.

Join with us and sign the pledge now.